What I Look for in a Fiction Submission

Leave a comment

October 31, 2011 by The Citron Review

When I began thinking about this question I immediately thought of James Engelhardt, the former managing editor of Prairie Schooner. I did a brief internship with them a few years ago, and I asked him pretty much the same question after he dropped a stack of manuscripts in my lap to read. While I honestly can’t remember his exact response, it was something along the lines of “You’ll know it when you see it.”

Now I know this is vague and no help to potential submitters. I felt just as lost that day, certain without more direction I was going to embarrass myself by recommending the wrong piece of writing to him. My anxiety grew when I realized that most of the submissions I read for Prairie Schooner were quite good. I remember having a pile of “yes” manuscripts next to me and it towered over the “no” pile. The manuscripts were clean, competently written, the writers followed all the rules of grammar and style and it was clear many of them were quite talented. I felt a little overwhelmed wondering how I would ever choose just a few to recommend and pass along – and then my entire perspective was altered. I read a story that changed everything. It wasn’t until I was finished with the piece that I realized that I was on the edge of my seat, that I had been holding my breath and I had completely forgotten where I was and what I was doing. I’m lucky I even remembered my name. Suddenly, everything else in my “yes” pile became a “no.”

I discovered that well-written is no match for fiction that pierces you so deeply that you are going to carry the mark of it with you for weeks, months, maybe even the rest of your life. I would ask any potential submitter to really think about the emotional resonance of their piece before they send it to me. I want work that burdens my soul. I want work that compels me to run from my seat to the nearest person and insist they read the story in my hands. The topic is irrelevant, and I’m even willing to overlook a typo or two, all a story really needs is to kick me in the gut. And if you still don’t understand what I’m talking about, consider this quote:

“Find the key emotion; this may be all you need know to find your short story.”
— F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

Heather Luby 
Fiction Editor
The Citron Review

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Mushrooms

🍋10th Anniversary

Fall 2019 IssueSeptember 23rd, 2019
Cheers to 10 great years!

🍋 Instagram

Congratulations to our poetry editors, EIC @ambrommel and Managing Editor @ericsteineger, and the @aulamfa students and alumni featured in December Shout Outs for their recent publications. #amreading #newwork #TheCitronReview #community #AntiochMFA
The epic title of Mary Morris​' micro "I Try to Get Out of the Way So the Soul May Draw Near" hints at the depth of our stories hidden from view. This piece sings in our Fall issue. https://citronreview.com/2019/09/23/i-try-to-get-out-of-the-way/ #amreading #microfiction
Our EIC @ambrommel read in Flagstaff last Monday at the Narrow Chimney Reading Series @uptownpubhouse. She found citrons at her Airbnb! Send us your #CitronStories! Poetry and fiction close December through January, but CNF reads year-round. #amreading #amediting #citrusygoodness🍋🍋🍋 #TheCitronReview #onlinejournal #briefliterature #celebratingtheshortform #cheersto10years #eatmoreart
Time flies like the snow! There's only one week left until December and we're still reading for Winter (and Spring) issues. Send us your best! https://citronreview.com/submission/ #amsubmitting #amwriting
This spiky new piece of creative nonfiction from Eleanor Levine is sure to prick your interest. https://citronreview.com/2019/09/23/hebrew-girl/ Eleanor Levine's writing has appeared in more than 70 publications, including Fiction, Evergreen Review, The Toronto Quarterly, Faultline, Maryland Literary Review, South Dakota Review, and others. A poetry collection, Waitress at the Red Moon Pizzeria, (Unsolicited Press) was published in 2016. Her short story collection, Kissing a Tree Surgeon, has been accepted for publication by Guernica Editions. #amreading #flashcnf
Fiction Editor JR Walsh luxuriates in micros shaken and most definitely stirred. https://citronreview.com/2019/09/23/notes-on-the-micro-fiction-selections/ #amreading #microfiction

Enter your email address to follow us and receive notifications of new issues by email.

%d bloggers like this: